Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Reading Group Report: 'Melodramatic Monster Villains in Early-Nineteenth-Century Theatre'

7th May 2014
 
Sarah Winter, Northumbria University
 
Wednesday 7th May saw NENC members meet for our penultimate session at Durham University, with this session delving back into the 1820s to explore two stage adaptations of Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein. Northumbria’s Sarah Winter introduced us to both Richard Brinsley Peake’s 1823 play Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein and Henry Milner’s 1826 The Man and the Monster; or The Fate of Frankenstein. Brinsley Peake’s version, Sarah suggested, was received positively by audiences attracted by the play’s melodrama and use of groundbreaking special effects. Shelley, however, was not overly-impressed, and many critics dismissed the play as mere sensationalism. Both Brinsley Peake’s and Milner’s adaptations, however, disseminated a deeper political message amongst the masses, tapping into the turbulent political climate of the period. Discussion after Sarah’s paper centred on the significance of the colour of the ‘creature’ (which was, somewhat surprisingly, blue, as opposed to the more conventional twentieth century image of the creature as green), the use of Gothic props in the plays and the issues of presenting the creature as symbolic of the working masses and political debate to a largely working class audience.
Details are to be announced shortly of the upcoming final session of this term. We would like to congratulate NENC member Beatrice Turner, who recently had a successful viva - and also to wish good luck to member Kate Katigbak on her upcoming viva!
Contact: northeast19thcentury@gmail.com
Twitter: @northeastc19